In a shameless, prolonged whine, Ali-Khan tells her autobiography through the device of the twelve U.S. towns she has lived in since her birth in Florida in November 1974, using them as vehicles variously to impugn the United States. Relying on the well-known rhetorical method of contrasting ideals with realities, this sometime hijab-wearing, extreme left-winger, the child of Pakistani immigrant parents, discovers a differently-flavored depravity in each of them.
For example, take Philadelphia, where this reviewer lives. Ali-Khan's chapter begins with 9/11, which took place almost simultaneously with her move to the city. Rather than share in her fellow-citizens' outrage at jihadis murdering three thousand Americans, she strikes a very different pose, dismissing al-Qaeda as "an international terrorist group that claimed to speak for Muslims" and bemoaning that "my country" instantly turned "their rage toward Muslims." (Do excuse the bad grammar, a constant companion in this book.)
When the U.S. government responded to the attack with a war on the Taliban, Ali-Khan "imagined what American attacks would mean for Afghan civilians ... and was repulsed by my country's misdirected vengeance and bloodthirst." (Note the mocking repetition of "my country.") The result was, "our nation laid waste to large Muslim civilian populations in Afghanistan and Iraq." Even worse, she reports, her country "opened the torture camp at Guantanamo."
Typical of her outlook, Ali-Khan reports that 9/11 and the distancing from a childhood friend had "left me feeling as though I had no skin, as if I were a burn survivor," a self-pity that contrasts with a notable absence of pity for the actual victims of 9/11, many of whom suffered not just imaginary burns but real death. When she eventually leaves the fascinating topic of herself, she almost invariably turns to the reputed sins of the "White America" in her subtitle. Philadelphia's "institutions, arteries, and neighborhoods" she portrays as a two centuries' "record of its efforts to maintain segregation and to protect White prosperity, while eroding or preventing Black prosperity," as though nothing ever changed.
Those seeking a trashy rant against America will delight in A Good Country. Everyone else should avoid it.